Accommodating Remote and Work from Home Employees

Designing offices that work for in-person, remote and work from home employees.

Remote Work and Working from Home - Truss

Do you or any of your employees work remotely?

With a computer and an internet connection, you and your employees can work from anywhere. Because of this, more companies have remote employees or flexible work from home policies. In the past 5 years, there has been a 44% increase in the number of remote employees in the US.

Along with changing the way people work, remote and flexible work from home options also change the spaces they work in – like your office. If you have remote or work from home employees, your office space needs to support these employees as well as their productivity and collaboration with others.

Wondering how to create an office space that works well for in-office, remote and work from home employees? Find out how to create a functional office environment and inclusive workplace culture for all of your employees below.  

What’s the difference between remote and work from home employees?

Before getting into how you can create a remote and work from home friendly company, it’s important to note that working remotely and from home (often used interchangeably) are different types of work.

Working remotely means that employees work entirely outside of the office. While remote employees often work from home, that’s not a requirement. Remote employees can work out of coworking spaces, coffee shops or even the local library (to name a few). Regardless of where they work, remote employees are based outside of your office.

Work from home employees work from home when needed – whether that’s every day of the week or occasionally. While they have the option to work outside of the office, work from home employees can still work in-person sometimes. Some flexible work policies may allow all employees an allotted number of days per week or per month to work from home.

Despite their differences, both remote work and flexible work from home policies pose similar challenges to the traditional office experience.

What are the benefits of having remote or work from home options?

In the past 12 years, remote and flexible work has grown by 159%. And, many see remote work as the future of work. This doesn’t mean that everyone will work outside of the office in the next 10 years. Rather, it means a substantial percentage of the workforce will likely work outside the office in some capacity.

So, why are remote work and work from home options gaining popularity?

Benefits for Employees

Remote working and flexible work from home policies are becoming popular with employees because they can help promote a better work-life balance for many employees. By working outside of the office, employees don’t have to spend time on non-productive work-related activities – like commuting and going out to lunch.

This allows remote and work from home employees more personal time – like spending time with family. That way, they can be more focused at work because they aren’t distracted by finding enough time for their personal life.  

Working remotely or from home can also increase employee productivity by reducing office distractions. In the office, employees can chat with coworkers and be interrupted when they’re trying to focus. At home, employees can control their environment and work in isolation when needed – which can lead to an increase in productivity.

And, working remotely can also promote employee health and wellness. Encouraging employees to work from home when they are not feeling well helps prevent sick people from infecting healthy coworkers. Plus, if you have remote workers, they’re much less likely to fall ill than in-office employees (because they work alone).

Benefits for Employers

Remote work or flexible work from home options can also help your business by reducing overhead costs. The fewer employees you have in the office, the less space you have to pay for – saving you money on overhead expenses.

Plus, being open to remote or work from home employees expands your available talent pool. Instead of being restricted by geographic location, you can hire the brightest talent from across the country (or around the world).

With remote or work from home options, you can also recruit and retain top employees. In fact, 80% of surveyed employees said they would turn down a job offer if the company didn’t have flexible working policies. So, if your company doesn’t support flexible work options, you could be losing out on the best employees.

Having flexible work options increases employee productivity and satisfaction – while making your company more attractive to top recruits.

Why do you still need an office space?

Although remote work and working from home are trending upwards, you still need an in-person office – even if you have a lot of remote employees. In fact, a recent study by Deloitte found that even though Millennial and Gen-Z workers desire flexible work benefits, they still value the importance of a physical office space: 89% of respondents said that a traditional office setting is essential for advancing their careers. A physical office setting provides employees with the opportunities to build valuable in-person relationships with their coworkers.

Another one of the biggest reasons you still need an office is not everyone or every role is suited to remote work. To work remotely, employees need to have excellent time management skills. And, they need to be able to create a distraction-free environment. Some employees can’t get work done when they’re outside of the office – so you need to have a space for them to be productive. Others may simply prefer everyday face-to-face interaction.

For fully remote workers, you also need to have an office because it provides meeting space. While remote employees are based outside of the office, they might still need to collaborate with in-office employees. Having a dedicated office means that remote employees have the option to collaborate in person.

Plus, remote workers might want to socialize with traditional employees. This can help them feel more connected to your company and satisfied with their work experience. Your office provides a great place for remote workers to socialize with in-office employees.

Your office is also a client meeting space. Although some clients are happy to do video meetings, others feel more comfortable meeting face to face. Your office provides a professional atmosphere for meeting clients in person.

An office gives employees space to work and socialize. And, it provides professional meeting space for clients – making an office a necessity even with remote/work from home employees.

How can you design an HQ that works for all employees?

Creating an office space that works for both traditional and remote or work from home employees involves considerations that differ from designing a traditional office.

Determine Your Space Needs

When you’re thinking about how much office space you need, you should primarily base it on your employees who are in the office 100% of the time. Those employees need dedicated desks, cubicles or offices that they can use every day. While remote and work from home employees might come into the office at times, they don’t need a dedicated space in your office. The same is true for any employees who often work in the field.

Instead of individual workstations for your remote or work from home employees, you can have an open office area with unassigned desks. That way, those employees always have somewhere to work when they come into the office but you aren’t paying for extra space that won’t be used daily.

When you’re determining how much space you need for your office, you should primarily base it on your in-person employees – while still allotting common area space for remote or work from home employees. 

Re-think Space Utilization

When you have a mixture of traditional and remote or work from home employees, you also need to use office space in new ways to make it work for all employees.

Small Meeting Rooms

With remote or work from home employees, you likely won’t need as many large conference rooms. Instead, consider more 1-4 person conference rooms. These smaller spaces provide an area for in-office employees to connect with remote and work from employees — without taking up a large conference room space. That way, you don’t pay for extra space you don’t need, while making the space you have suitable for remote and work from home employees. Plus, you can make them acoustically sound to make virtual meetings easier.

Quiet Workspaces

Office pods, or phone booths, are another option to make office space work better for remote and work from home employees. They provide a noise insulated space just large enough to fit a desk and chair. When someone needs to collaborate with a remote or work from home employee, they can do so without disturbing other workers (or being disturbed).

Plus, office pods provide a quiet space for work from home (or other employees) to escape the noise of the office to focus. You can also have a dedicated quiet room that mimics a distraction-free work from home experience. That way, work from home employees don’t have to switch between a noisy and quiet space when they move between working at home and in the office.

Workspace for Remote and Work from Home Employees

Another way to rethink your office space is to have more unassigned desks than designated workstations. Traditional employees might want their own desk or cubicle. However, unassigned desks work great for remote and work from home employees when they’re in the office. That way, you don’t have a bunch of wasted cubicle or office space – while making non-traditional employees comfortable.

You can also design your office to promote socialization when remote and work from home employees are in the office. Remote and work from home employees don’t have as much time to bond with their coworkers. So, it’s important to make socialization as easy as possible when they do come into the office.

Having breakout space or lounge areas allow traditional, remote and work from home employees to socialize away from areas where others may be working. Plus, having amenities – like relaxation spaces and showers – make it easy for remote employees to travel to the office without worrying about stopping by a hotel first.

Rethinking how you use space will not only make your office more efficient, it’ll also make remote and work from home employees just as comfortable as traditional workers when they’re in the office.

Get the Right Technology

Along with thinking about your space differently, you also need to get the proper technology to support remote and work from home employees.

Storing data and running apps on the cloud is one important technology you should have. It allows remote or work from home employees to access crucial information from anywhere. So, employees can work just as well from the office as they can at home.

Collaborative tech tools are another must for supporting remote and work from home employees. Messaging apps allow employees to communicate with each other nearly instantaneously. And, collaborative work platforms allow employees to work together on projects without needing to be in the same building (or even country).

Technology to facilitate meetings is also important when creating an office that works well for all employees. Hosting meetings virtually allows all employees to participate. Designing quiet and acoustically sound meeting rooms will help meetings go smoothly. And, providing the same conferencing technology to all employees will make sure everyone is on the same page.

Plus, you should have the proper protocols in place to make your meetings work for everyone. You should send out meeting links in the calendar invite to make it easy for people to dial in. And, you should have all employees (even those in-office) dial in on their computers so everyone is interacting with each other through video.

By embracing technology to make working remotely or from home easier, you can create an office that works for all employees.

How can you ensure remote and work from home employees feel included?

Beyond the logistical challenges of having workers outside of the office, having remote and work from home employees creates company culture challenges as well.

When employees aren’t in the office every day (or any day), they can feel disconnected from your company and their coworkers. This isolation can be potentially harmful for remote and work from home employees’ productivity and job satisfaction. So, creating an inclusive culture is critical to retaining top talent and having a high performing workforce.

Virtual Inclusion

One way to make remote and work from home employees feel included is to promote virtual socialization. You could schedule virtual events that allow traditional, remote and work from home employees time to socialize. Or, you could build this time into weekly meetings, like establishing the first five minutes of the meeting as social time. It’s also important to check in with remote and work from home employees. Entirely remote workers may go days without interacting with anyone. Having 5-10 minute check-ins a couple of times a week is an easy way to ensure remote and work from home employees feel like you and your company care.

In-Person Inclusion

You can also schedule team-building activities or onsite gatherings a few times a year. This provides remote employees with an opportunity to interact with the rest of your team in person. And, you can plan team lunches or other social activities when remote and work from home employees will be in the office. That way, they get to participate in as many activities as possible.

When remote and work from home employees visit, make sure there’s a dedicated place for them to work. If you group employees into teams, you can include an extra workspace in any team that has remote or work from home members. Or, you can have a dedicated remote/work from home zone – so they have somewhere familiar to work in your office.

Another way to make remote and work from home employees feel included is to offer them the same perks traditional employees get. If you have an onsite gym, you can give remote workers a credit to get a gym membership. Or, if you cater a lunch, you can give out of office employees a lunch credit. This makes sure they feel equal with traditional employees.

When you have remote or work from home employees, it’s extremely important to make them feel like a part of your team. Taking steps to promote an inclusive culture ensures your remote and work from home employees feel just as valued as traditional workers.

How can you support working remotely and from home?

Although remote and work from home employees work outside of the office, you still need to make sure they have the proper tools and environment to be productive.

Remote and work from home employees need much of the same equipment as traditional employees – like laptops, monitors and business services (such as printing). Since you don’t expect in-office employees to buy this equipment themselves, you should provide it to out of office employees as well.

To support remote employees, you should also consider providing space for them to work. One option is to provide off-site employees with a coworking membership. This is an affordable way to give remote workers a place to work. A coworking membership will also give your remote employees access to business amenities as well as opportunities to network with other members. You could also rent a private office within a coworking location for remote employees if that’s in your budget.

When more than one remote employee works in the same area, you could also consider leasing a satellite office for them to collaborate. An easy way to do this is to provide a coworking space (which could be a private office) for them to work in.

Wrapping It Up

Working remotely or from home is a growing business trend that shows no signs of slowing down. Having remote or work from home options can help you attract top talent and have happier, more productive employees.

But, remote work and working from home pose challenges to the traditional office model. By reconsidering how much space you need, how you use the space, your technology and your culture, you can create an office that makes working remotely or from home an easy option.

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